Wisconsin’s line of Brooke Ammerman, Brianna Decker and Saige Pacholok may not have started Friday’s game against Wayne State, but they ended it fairly quickly.
The three players contributed to five of Wisconsin’s goals, as the Badgers dominated the Warriors 6-2 in the series finale. Ammerman scored four goals, while Decker added a goal of her own and Pacholok assisted on three of their scores.
Although they could be considered Wisconsin’s second line, they have been the most productive group for the Badgers all season. The line members were not originally paired with each other at the start of the season, but according to Pacholok, the group has started to come together.
“Coach said in between periods we were dynamic on the ice,” Pacholok said. “We weren’t standing still, we were looking for sticks to hit passes with.”
Just 42 seconds into the game, Decker stole a pass deep in the Wayne State zone and fed it to Ammerman for the easy score. It was Decker’s first shift back from a broken arm suffered Oct. 3 against North Dakota, and she appeared to have no lingering effects from the time off.
Decker — playing in just the third game of her career — also scored when she netted a wrist shot from inside the blue line. According to Decker, the game was a big step forward personally and for the team.
“It was great to be back out there with the team and on the bench,” Decker said. “I think we just showed the potential we have.”
Decker isn’t the only one happy she’s back out on the ice.
“Decker is a special player,” Wisconsin head coach Tracey DeKeyser said. “You can see just the way she has vision for the ice.”
In the nine games without her, the Badgers scored just 2.8 goals a game, well below expectations for a team that has outshot opponents almost every game this season.
One player who stepped up during Decker’s absence was the freshmen Pocholok, who had three assists in the last nine minutes of the game. None was more impressive than in the last minute, when she was down on her knees deep in the UW zone. Despite being unable to skate, Pacholok spun her stick around and directed the puck away from the Wayne State attackers to set up a goal with just 7.8 seconds remaining.
The real star of the game, though, was Ammerman, who scored in both the first and last minute of the contest. Her four goals were not only a season-high but it would have been good for third place on the team for the whole season. With her last score, however, Ammerman tallied her ninth goal of year, almost twice as many as the next Badger.
“Brooke was phenomenal — she played great today,” Decker said. “I think if we continue to put the puck in the net, it’s going to help our team a lot.”
Ammerman also finished the game with plus-3 rating, the only player on either team to do so.
“I hope I can play like this against better teams.” Ammerman said. “It was just a productive day for everybody on the ice.”
As a group, the line achieved some remarkable statistics. With Pacholok’s three shots, Decker’s seven and Ammerman’s 11, they outshot the entire Wayne State team. In fact, Ammerman’s total was one short of all the shots Wayne State had for the first two periods.
The trio also managed to solve Wisconsin’s power play issues, which had been frustrating the team all season. Decker and Ammerman scored the two goals with the extra attacker, and the team was 2-for-5 on the power play for the night. According to DeKeyser, if the line continues to play this well, it could finally mean a turnaround for the frustrating season.
“Both [Ammerman] and Decker are very good offensive threats,” DeKeyser said. “That 1-2 punch was the difference today.”